Curated: M.R Venkatraman
Why do Hindus worship idols when God told us he is everywhere?
Once Swami Vivekananda visited King of Alwar in present day Rajasthan. The king in an attempt to mock idol worship told Swamiji, “I’ve no faith in idol worship. How can one worship stone, wood and metal? I believe people are in illusion and just wasting time!”.
Swamiji smiled. He asked the king’s assistant to take down the picture of the king that was hanging on the wall. Although confused, the assistant did so. Then Swamiji ordered him, “Spit on the picture!”. The assistant was shocked and looked at both of them. Swami repeated again and again, becoming more stern each time. The king was growing angry and the assistant started trembling. Finally, he cried out, “How can I spit on this? This picture is of our beloved and respected king!”.Swamiji then told him, “The king is sitting in front of you in person. This picture is merely a paper – it does not speak, hear, think or move. But still you did not spit because you see a shadow of your king in it, Spitting on it was like spitting on the king itself.” The king looked at Swamiji and bowed down, clearly understanding what he was referring to. This is the essence of idol worshiping. God is everywhere, but people want to pray to Him, ask favors, offer food, tell stories, bathe Him, play with Him and do what they do in their lives. Creating a human-like idol creates an image of God as a companion, a guide, a friend, a protector, a giver, a fellow being and so on. An idol is just a concrete representation where they find Him. When I look into the eyes of an idol, I do not see stone or metal, but another pair of eyes looking affectionately at me, smiling.
curated: 12 May 2016
The Indian Spirit and the World’s Future (2004), pp 77-86
Recently a well-known leader of the scheduled classes, announced his desire to embrace Buddhism because of the lot of the “untouchables” in Hindu society – a lot which seemed to him a pointer to a lack in Hinduism of the sense of human brotherhood. He also declared that if Hinduism bore the caste system for several centuries it had failed “to yield anything substantive”. According to him, Buddhism stands in striking contrast to this religion.
What shall we say to these highly “allergic” criticisms? The institution of untouchability was indeed a stain on the social scheme that had got established in India. But with the advent of the modern age the conscience of the best Hindus has always rebelled against it. As far back as the days of Ram Mohan Roy the progressive movement started and reform organisations like the Brahmo-Samaj and the Arya-Samaj fought untouchability for decades on end. The biggest uproar against it came from a Hindu – Gandhi. And the Indian Constitution which expresses a good deal of the contemporary Hindu mind has abolished untouchability. It is absurd to claim that untouchability is part and parcel of Hinduism. It is certainly no part of those foundational scriptures of the Hindus: the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Gita. In ancient India the castes were guilds for different crafts and professions, with no odious distinctions or taboos. Later they got rigid. In the days of India’s decline they became more and more obnoxious, particularly by thrusting several millions outside the pale. But even when we condemn the injustice to so many it is well to remember that injustice of this type in general is not something peculiarly associated with Hindu society. Will Durant, the famous American writer on civilisation and culture, pointedly asks: “Does the attitude of a Brahmin to a Pariah differ, except in words, from that of a British lord to a navvy, or a Park Avenue banker to an East Side huckster, or a white man to a negro, or a European to an Asiatic?” What is clear from Durant’s question is that there is a deplorable tendency in human nature towards unjust discrimination. And a social structure with Buddhism as the religious ingredient of it is as likely as a Hindu or a Christian society to become gradually stratified and to develop superiorities and inferiorities. If Buddha preached brotherhood, so did Christ and so did the ancient Hindu seers and saints. In fact the essential oneness of all things, the basic equality of all creatures was never so forcefully declared as by the mystics of Hinduism who saw the Divine everywhere.
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A student studying abroad in Switzerland observes the country in Switzerland:
While studying in Switzerland, I rented a house near the school. The landlord Kristina is a 67-year-old single old lady who worked as a teacher in a secondary school before she retired. Switzerland’s pension is very rich, enough not to make her worry about eating and drinking in her later years. However, it is puzzling that she actually found a “work” – to take care of an 87-year-old single old man. I asked if she was working for money. Her answer surprised me: “I did not work for money, but I put my time in the ‘time bank’, and when I couldn’t move at old age, I could withdraw it.”
The first time I heard about the concept of “time bank”, I was very curious and asked the landlord thoroughly. The original “Time Bank” was an old-age pension program developed by the Swiss Federal Ministry of Social Security. People saved the time of taking care of the elderly when they were young, and waited until they were old, ill or needed care. Applicants must be healthy, good at communicating and full of love. Every day they have plenty of time to look after the elderly who need help. Their service hours will be deposited into the personal accounts of the social security system. She went to work twice a week, spending two hours each time, to help the elderly shopping, finishing the room, taking the elderly out to sunbathe, chatting with the elderly. According to the agreement, after one year of her service expiry, “Time Bank” will count out her working hours and issue her a “time bank card”. When she needs someone to take care of her, she can use her “time bank card” to “time bank” to withdraw “time and time interest”. After the information verification is passed, “Time Bank” will assign volunteers to take care of her to the hospital or her home. .
One day, I was in school and the landlady called and said she fell off the stool when she wiped the window. I quickly took leave and sent her to the hospital for treatment. The landlady broke her ankle and needed to stay in bed for a while. While I was preparing to apply for a holiday home to take care of her, the landlady told me that I did not have to worry about her. She had already submitted a withdrawal request to the “Time Bank”. Sure enough, less than two hours, “Time Bank” sent a nursing worker to come to care for the landlord. In the following month, the care worker took care of the landlord every day, chatted with her and made delicious meals for her. Under the meticulous care of the carer, the landlady soon recovered to health. After recovering, the landlady went back to “work”. She said that she intends to save time in the “time bank” when she is still healthy, and wait until she can’t move.
Today, in Switzerland, the use of “time banks” to support old age has become a common practice. This not only saves the country pension expenses, but also solves some other social problems. Many Swiss citizens are very supportive of this kind of old-age pensions. The survey conducted by the Swiss pension organization shows that more than half of Swiss young people also want to participate in this type of old-age care service. The Swiss government also specializes in legislation to support the “Time Bank” pension.